Five-Mile Trail

The view of Kentucky Lake from atop Pilot Knob.

The view of Kentucky Lake from atop Pilot Knob.

The Five Mile Trail is part of a trail system in Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park that includes a number of loop trails within the system. There is also a 3-mile loop as well as  10-mile and 20-mile loops.

The park began as a local park constructed by the Works Progress Administration, and was dedicated to Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest in 1929. Forrest, in addition to his many other exploits during the War Between the States, is known locally for having destroyed, in November of 1864, the Federal supply and munitions depot at Johnsonville at the mouth of Trace Creek on the eastern side of the Tennessee River.

Though it didn’t become a state park until 1963, it is now home to the Tennessee River Folklife Interpretive Center and Museum situated on the highest point in West Tennessee—Pilot Knob. The center features the lifestyles and customs of the people who reside alongside the Tennessee River, including musseling, crafts, commercial fishing and more. His operations during this attack were focused in the area around the current park and the nearby town of Eva.

Located on Kentucky Lake, the park is near commercial marinas and public boat docks and there are three boat access points available in the park at no cost. Among the fish to be caught in the lake are smallmouth, largemouth and striped bass, sauger, crappie, bream and catfish.      

Shelter on the 5-mile trail

Shelter on the 5-mile trail


5-Mile Trail

Distance Round-Trip: 5 miles

Estimated Hiking Time: 2 hours


Breathtaking views of Kentucky Lake from the summit of Pilot Knob begin this hike that ends with a maunder around the ridges of several knobs, as well as a stroll creekside when hiking through the valley.


Caution: Hiking this trail on a hot day will make the crystal clear waters of the creeks in the valley awfully tempting, but the water is not safe to drink. Bring your own water to stay hydrated.

Trail Directions: The 3-, 5-, 10- and 20-mile trails all share the same trailhead behind the Folklife Interpretive Center on the summit of the 669-foot Pilot Knob. The parking area is below the center and you must walk uphill to reach the trail or get permission to park next to the center. The Trailhead sign is at N 36º 5’ 20”, W 87º 58’ 26” (1). Take some time to visit the interpretive center before, or following, your hike. It is well worth the time, as is spending a moment wandering around the summit of Pilot Knob, if for no other reason than the views of Kentucky Lake.

The orange-blazed 5-Mile Trail begins along the top of the ridge overlooking Kentucky Lake, and as the trail begins, you walk along a carpet of moss. At .65 mile reach a section of trail from which you can see that you are about to descend off the ridge at first gently and then more steeply. At .78 mile, you will reach a trail sign for the 3-, 5-, 10-, and 20-mile trails to your right indicating that you should continue following the path straight ahead. The sign also indicates that the museum and trailhead are back in the direction from which you just hiked. This sign is located at N 36º 5’ 46”, W 87º 58’ 7” (2).

Shortly after passing this sign, you will reach a spring to your left that forms one of the streams that flows through the valley. Continue hiking and in just over half a mile and 1.46 miles into the hike, you will reach another trail sign that indicates that the 5-, 10- and 20-mile trails continue to the right, and that the 3-mile Trail continues to the left at N 36º 5’ 54”, W 87º 58’ 31” (3).

Turn right and in just over half a mile, reach a flat area with an iron post to the right as well as views of the lake in the fall and winter when the trees are leafless. To the left, a gently rounded knob can be seen and just ahead to your right, a flat board-like bench across a tree trunk. The post is located at N 36º 5’ 58”, W 87º 57’ 53” (4).

At 2.39 miles, you will reach a large creek. Cross carefully and shortly you will cross it again, and then a third time, all within a tenth of a mile. At 2.71 miles you will begin a steep ascent, reaching the top of the knob .13 mile after you begin. A trail shelter is located here dedicated to the Boy Scout leader James Jett Sr. at N 36º 6’ 23”, W 87º 58’ 14” (5).

Continue hiking and at 3 miles, you will reach a junction with a trail sign indicating that the 10- and 20-mile trails depart the treadway to the right, but also return here via a loop and then continue along with the 5-mile trail. Continue hiking and in another .68 mile, you will reach a sign to your right that indicates that the 3-Mile Trail and Cabin are straight ahead and that the 5-mile Trail is rejoining the 3-mile loop at N 36º 5’ 59”, W 87º 58’ 48” (6).

The trail continues curving to the right, and in another .2 mile, you will reach a red, white and blue iron rod in the ground, which once had blazes pointing to the left to indicate that the trail, including the 10- and 20-mile continues in that direction.

At 4.02 miles, you will reach the junction where the 20-Mile Trail leaves the other three trails to the right. The 3-, 5- and 10-mile trails continue straight ahead in the direction of the log cabin. The sign is located at N 36º 5’ 47”, W 87º 59’ 0” (7). In another half of a mile, you will reach a gate that blocks the dirt road you’ve been hiking on from the paved road at N 36º 5’ 28”, W 87º 58’ 47” (8). The log cabin is across the road and uphill to the right.

The trail continues on the road to the left, passing in front of the cabin. At 4.73 miles, you will reach the road to the interpretive center. Cross the road and continue through the woods around the hill. In less than a tenth of a mile, you will reach the road to the interpretive center again and walk alongside the road before reaching the picnic area and ascending the road to the parking area at 4.9 miles.

5-Mile Trail Map

5-Mile Trail Map

  1. Trailhead atop Pilot Knob
  2. Trail sign
  3. 3-Mile Trail leaves other trails
  4. Iron post
  5. Trail shelter
  6. 5-Mile Trail rejoins 3-mile loop.
  7. 20-Mile Trail leaves other trails
  8. Junction with road at gate
  9. Parking Area

Directions: From Interstate 40, take Exit 126 and travel north on U.S. 641 for 15 miles to Camden. Turn right on U.S. 70 East (not the bypass) at the traffic light. Follow the signs. Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park is on off Tennessee 191.

Hours Open: The park is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., the office and museum from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The park is located in the Central Time Zone.